The beginning of the pandemic in 2020 drastically changed the home entertainment board industry. Charcuterie found a new place in many consumers’ shopping carts and kitchens.
Now getting close to three years later, after many ebbs and flows of case numbers and variants, how has the industry continued to change? Two industry leaders — Oliviero Colmignoli, president and founder of Oceanside, Calif.-based Olli Salumeria, and Deanna Depke, marketing manager of St. Louis-based Volpi Foods — shared their perspectives on this new era of entertainment boards — charcuterie 2.0.
How has the charcuterie industry changed since the beginning of the pandemic?
Colmignoli: The early days of the pandemic had an immediate impact on the industry as foodservice dwindled and charcuterie was not being served at group gatherings, but sales quickly accelerated as consumers tapped into the versatility of salami as a convenient high-protein snack or entrée ingredient.
As the pandemic continued, people craved the social aspect of dining out and began to recreate exciting culinary experiences at home, including charcuterie boards. It’s no surprise that charcuterie has been trending for several years. Charcuterie became increasingly popular during the pandemic, as consumers sought exciting, premium foods at home. Online searches about charcuterie grew nearly 300% through 2021, with continued momentum in the post-pandemic period. This trend led to increased interest in charcuterie boards and grazing platters, which encouraged a lighter, less entrée-focused approach to meals. Great tasting, shelf-stable and versatile in a broad range of dishes or as a simple snack, salami grew increasingly popular during the pandemic, and consumer eating habits during this period have helped shape our product development moving forward.
Depke: Charcuterie boards have become a social media phenomenon throughout the course of the pandemic and after. People find a sense of joy in curating and building the boards as well as serving them. Now, boards are a staple food fit for any occasion, whether it be themed movie viewings or classic holiday parties.
At Volpi, we’ve partnered with a new class of catering companies who teach classes on how to shop for and build the perfect charcuterie board for any occasion. It’s a fun way to bring people together, educate and inspire new ideas.
What is the next big thing for charcuterie?
Colmignoli: Moving forward, the big focus is on charcuterie as a snack. As more consumers are introduced to the robust flavor of salami, artisanal cheese and other charcuterie favorites, there is interest in enjoying these foods in portable snack form.
Similar to snacks, the other growing trend right now is making authentic charcuterie convenient at home. After years of at-home culinary exploration during the pandemic, charcuterie is more popular than ever, and consumers are discovering the variety of flavors that salami and other charcuterie favorites can deliver.
In addition to changing consumer eating habits in recent years, there has been growing interest in clean-label ingredients. Consumers are more aware than ever of how simple, quality ingredients not only taste better, but are also healthier for you. A major part of our focus at Olli Salumeria is producing the finest salami by using simple, natural ingredients that are hormone- and antibiotic-free. Our salami is slow-cured according to multi-generational Italian family recipes.
One key distinction with the Olli Salamini line is that these products are effectively preservative-free, though a unique proprietary curing process that is a revolutionary step for modern salami making. While salt is the primary ingredient used for curing and preserving salami, for many decades, salami makers have relied on nitrates and nitrites as added preservatives. Olli has developed a unique process to produce a salami that is effectively free of preservatives.
Depke: We are seeing charcuterie extend its reach across daypart meals – breakfast, lunch and snacking. This opens up new opportunities in merchandising and messaging to inspire shoppers and drive incremental purchases.
As we near the key holiday season, our focus is on classic favorites: Traditional Prosciutto and variety packs of Sopressata, Coppa and Genoa Salame, as well as specialty finds that create a true destination experience: Jamon Serrano and Heritage Prosciutto.
In time for the Big Game, Volpi is launching a curated trio of beer-infused Salame nuggets that feature IPA, Lager and Stout varietals. Our nuggets are thick-cut, snackable slices perfect for sharing, leading up to and on game day.
What role does ‘convenience versus creativity’ play in charcuterie and consumer purchasing?
Colmignoli: One of the best aspects of salami is its versatility – salami is one of the few high-protein foods that boasts endless culinary possibilities as an entrée ingredient, but also offers the perfect snack without any preparation.
While we continually help identify new usage occasions and serving suggestions for salami on Olli.com and across our social media pages, our product innovation team has focused on making it easier to enjoy salami through convenient packaging solutions and unique flavor pairings. Many of our latest product offerings are centered on salami snacks and shared charcuterie offerings, providing exciting new ways to enjoy these foods on-the-go, or in a group setting. The underlying appeal of charcuterie is the variety and customization that if offers. Many of Olli’s products, such as pre-sliced salami, salamini, salamini and curds and antipasto, offer the perfect starting point for a charcuterie board that can be customized at home for a unique creation.
Depke: There is always a balance to be had between convenience and creativity with charcuterie products. Most shoppers crave some guidance when creating more entertainment-based charcuterie boards and are more convenience-focused when it comes to snacking. Volpi focuses on delivering convenience that adds value for our shoppers based on these occasions – pairing suggestions and curated assortment packs for those looking to impress friends and fully prepared, convenient snacks for those looking to satisfy an immediate need.